Jessica Meir, Ph.D., was selected by NASA in 2013. With an impressive CV that includes a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Brown University, a Master of Science in Space Studies from the International Space University, and a Doctorate in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UCSD), Meir has seen and done it all.
Starting at the age of five, Meir dreamt of the day she would make it to space. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, she left Earth on her first spaceflight and later floated into her new home aboard the International Space Station. Ahead of her six months in space conducting research on a multitude of science investigations and participating in Human Research Program studies, we’re looking at Jessica’s experience as a “Jane of all Trades” who has done a little bit of everything in her career to this point.
Field Researcher, Geese Trainer, Survival Expert, and More
While Meir’s new home on the ISS is more than 200 miles over the Earth, this is not her first encounter with extreme environments.
For her Ph.D. research, Jessica studied the diving physiology of marine mammals and birds. Her field research led her to Antarctica, where she studied oxygen depletion in diving Emperor Penguins. Meir herself is also an Antarctic diver! In addition to penguins in the Antarctic, Meir also studied oxygen depletion in elephant seals in the generally-much-more-comfortable northern California region.
Her post-doctoral research led to the role as a goose trainer, investigating the high-flying Bar-headed Goose at the University of British Columbia. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, as her role entailed training geese to fly in a wind tunnel while obtaining physiological measurements in reduced oxygen conditions.
After her selection as an Astronaut Candidate in 2013, Meir participated in three days of wilderness survival training near Rangeley, Maine – the first phase of the intensive astronaut training program. This training was put to use in her 2016 role as a crew member on the European Space Agency CAVES space analog caving mission in Sardinia, Italy, where she spent six uninterrupted days exploring a complex cave system that is considered a ‘space-analogous’ environment. The purpose of the mission is explained as fostering communication, decision-making, problem-solving, leadership, and team dynamics capabilities in a space-like environment.
Come In, Mission Control
In addition to her astronaut training for the environment of space, Meir also gained extensive mission control experience, serving as the Lead Capsule Communicator (CapCOM) for three missions. This positioned in the role of the flight controller speaking directly to the astronaut crew in space on behalf of the rest of the Mission Control team. In addition, she has participated in research flights on NASA’s reduced gravity aircraft and served as an aquanaut crew member in the Aquarius underwater habitat for the 4th NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission.
Astronaut Christina H Koch was just one of the many audience members glued to the reports of Meir’s journey to the ISS. The only difference? Koch was watching from a different viewpoint. Already stationed on the ISS, Christina tweeted “What it looks like from @Space_Station when your best friend achieves her lifelong dream to go to space. Caught the second stage in progress! We can’t wait to welcome you onboard, crew of Soyuz 61!” We think this is the greatest tale of best friends reconnecting, let alone two best friends who are each accomplished scientists in their own right, let alone astronauts living on an engineering marvel.
This story was compiled using information found on NASA’s website and Tumblr account. To view the story in its entirety, click here.